Elvis lives!; Hives buzz into First Ave.

There are the sticky floors, circulating bottles of beer, and the typical assortment of howling fans. The scene at the Orpheum Theatre really isn’t far removed from the old Longhorn, the site of an early Elvis Costello appearance back in 1978. It only seems fitting that such a display could bridge a generation gap. Costello’s latest, When I Was Cruel has already been hailed by both critics and fans for it’s return to form; at a high-decibel range and crackling with sly social commentary and unrepentant lust. Costello even collaborates with two-thirds of the original Attractions, who join him on tour. But this is no nostalgia trip.

After running on stage to the tune of Costello’s own vocals, distorted to a dancey waver, the band kicked ceremoniously into “45,” which also ignites Cruel. The song is charged with a nod to the bygone days of rock, brimming with youthful promise and angst ñ a certain brand of pessimism which fans of Costello (also found in the work of peers such as Nick Lowe) have come to count on. They next launched into two songs from Costello’s 1977 debut My Aim is True: “Waiting For the End of the World” and a dub-influenced “Watching the Detectives.” The invigorated frontman gestured wildly, twirled with guitar in hand and allowed frequently for fervent audience accompaniment. He’s blessed with a knack for showmanship that few entertainers still allow for. The myriad of new rock nerds he’s inspired could benefit from a few notes on presentation. Sadly, due to time constraints, the evening was devoid of storytelling. The sarcastic songwriter introduced Cruel‘s “Spooky Girlfriend” as a “critique of show business.” He further replenished This Year’s Model‘s classics “Little Triggers” and “I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea” backed by the same synth melodies that definedhis sound 25 years ago.

After flying through numerous favorites and new gems alike, the band closed a second command encore with Blood and Chocolate‘s stark ballad “I Want You.” A spotlight illuminating his face, Costello’s quiet vocals hushed the crowd. “I want you / when you go to sleep at night / and when you wake up. I want you.”

“I want you too Elvis!” a young heckler responded.

Some things never change.

-Kate Silver


It was impossible to tell if the crowd knew about the Hives’ mysterious pre-fab beginnings, but it was easy to see they didn’t care about that (or anything else) during the 45-minute set. The Hives have that effect.

Climbing onstage clad in matching black suits and white ties, the Swedish quintet made with the music. No ballads, no introspection, no time to think, just a dozen or so songs designed to make you shake your ass, smile, and forget about how boring rock can be.

As frenetic frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist led with squealing vocals, mic swinging and high kicks, guitarist Nicholaus Arson steered the band through nearly all of the band’s U.S. debut, Veni, Vidi, Vicious, with an insane attack ñ pounding and abusing his guitar, all while staring down the bouncing crowd.

“The Hives ñ Declare Guerre Nucleaire” rocked harder than the album version thanks in part to drummer Chris Dangerous’s undeniable, massive-sounding drums. Dangerous’s drumming propelled the set, particularly on the infectious “Main Offender” and “Hate To Say I Told You So,” out of standard garage rock territory and into a more substantial sounding rock realm.

Almqvist made no qualms about selling the band between songs as “the eighth wonder of man” and “your new favorite band” with tongue firmly planted in cheek, just as how a certain someone once declared their band “bigger than Jesus” with a wink and nod.

Towards the end of the set, as he stood wide-eyed at the foot of the stage gesturing for more applause, Almqvist shot the audience a look of surprise mixed with assured cockiness. The cheering, ecstatic crowd looked on at the Hives, their new favorite band.

-Paul Sand